Supporters of senior Nigerian cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky say they have obtained information that four of his followers have died in government custody because of a lack of medical treatment of their gunshot wounds, raising further concerns about a government crackdown on the sheikh’s Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
IMN members regularly take to the streets of the Nigerian capital of Abuja to call for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, their leader, who has been in detention since 2015.
On Monday, Nigerian forces reportedly used live ammunition and teargas to curb one such protest.
Abdullahi Junaidu, an IMN member, said in a tweet on Wednesday that the group had received reports about the death of four detained followers of Sheikh Zakzaky.
Report reaching us now saying that our members “Sheikh Zakzaky followers” are dying in SARS custody due to lack of medical treatment of their injuries caused by gun shot on Monday during #FreeZakzaky protest, by now 4 of our members attained martyrdom in their custody.
The cleric has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigerian forces, during which he was beaten and lost his left eye. Three of his sons also lost their lives in the brutal crackdown, while his wife sustained serious wounds and more than 300 of his followers were killed.
In 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
Earlier this month, Zakzaky’s son, Mohammad, said after visiting him that he was shocked by his father’s worsening medical condition. Mohammad said large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium had been found in Zakzaky’s blood and the cleric needed to be immediately hospitalized.
The IMN says the cleric has been poisoned in prison and requires urgent medical care abroad. It says the group would hold President Buhari responsible “if anything should happen to Zakzaky or his wife in detention.”